If you’re planning to visit London, or you live in London, having these travel applications on your Android phone will help you plan your journeys quicker.
London has a number of ways of getting around, trains, buses and even bikes. London Transport has embraced IT fully, so upto the minute information can be viewed through the web browser. They also make this information accessible to 3rd party applications, which many Android developers have taken advantage of.
For each method of transport, we have listed what we think is the best application. Although most of these application are paid for, it is a minor cost compared to the benefits they offer.
London Underground – Journey Pro
London has two types of train services National Rail (aka mainline, overground), covering all of UK, and the Underground, which covers just London. A large part of the infrastructure runs under the ground, hence the name. It is also sometimes referred to as the Tube.
For the underground we recommend Journey Pro. There is a free version, but we just find adverts annoying. Journey Pro also covers the national rail, underground and buses, so it is a good all-rounder, though the journeys are limited from station to station.
Journey Pro starts by displaying a scrollable tube/rail map in its main screen, covering all of London. By clicking on stations, you can then set the start or end points of your journey. You can then decide if you want to start your journey straight away, or at some point in the future. It then lists various journey options you can take, such as train and/or buses, together with the estimated times for each one. The routes that it offers can be a combination of trains, buses, trams, etc., so you can decide which one is best for you. This is useful in London, because you can buy a daily pass cover all forms of transport.
What makes this application excel though, is that it shows you what platform and specific carriage to get on to for each train. Useful if you need to change lines during your journey.
As Londoners know, the underground seems to be constantly delayed, be it due to signal failures, station improvements or track repairs. So Journey pro has a handy widget that displays the status of all London underground lines.
National Rail – Rail Planner Live
Network Rail runs the overground lines, and also has a very good application, called Rail Planner Live. It is useful if you want to travel outside of London as it covers all of the UK. Using this application you can find out your train routes and times, all times are live. It also can be linked to your Network Rail account, so you can view purchased tickets directly from within the app.
The developers designed this application for people who commute daily between home and some destination, e.g. it work. Once it knows this information, it is only a button click to find out the live departures times.
But the best feature we found about this application the widget. The widget allows you to view the status of the trains between two stations, typically the trains that would take to and from work. It shows what times the trains are departing, and what platform, if it is delayed, or on time. So finding out when the next train is departing is quick and easily accessible. What’s more, the widget can automatically use your geo-location to swap the departing and destination stations. So if you are near your home station, it will display the departures for your home to your work station, if you are at work, it will automatically display the departures from your work to your home station.
Buses – London Bus Checker
London Bus Checker is the app for buses. It taps into London Transports databases that holds information on where bus stops are, what bus routes are covered by the bus stop, and live information on when the bus will be arriving.
Starting up the application will display a map of your current location, with the nearest bus stops around as icons, ala Google maps. Where this differs from Google maps, is that clicking on a bus stop icon will display the live timetable for that stop, Google Maps just displays the scheduled times and the latest times. In addition, on the same screen, you can highlight a Bus number, and Bus Checker will display the route on a list or map, so you will know if you bus stops where you want.
Although it is great for showing the latest bus information, it is not designed to plan your journey from one location to another. So you will need to know ahead of time what buses you need. So not so good for new visitors to London, but excellent once you know what buses you require.
Bicycles – Cycle Hire Widget
If you prefer a bit of exercise, and do not like the idea of getting on a crowded train or bus, then for short journeys a bike may be a pleasant option, through Barclays Cycle hire. This is a bike hire system managed by London transport, but sponsored by Barclays , hence the name. Many Londoners use this cycles for getting to work from their local mainline station, as it can be very cost effective.
The cycle hire system works a bit different from normal hiring systems. Scattered across London are depots with a number of bikes locked into a stand. You a pay a fee, starting at 1 pound a day, to gain access to the bikes for 24 hours. You can then take a bike from one depot to another for your journey. If your journey is less than 30 minutes, then it is free. If it is more, then your credit card is charged depending on the time you removed the bike from the depot, and when it was returned to another depot. You can make as many journeys as you want within your access period, and if they are all less than 30 minutes, then all you pay is 1 pound.
This is very cost effective, though there is a problem. Sometimes the depots are full, that is, there are no available stands for you to lock your bike into. There is a grace period, for additional charges, to take your bike to another depot if your current one is full.
So what be great, would be an application that told you if the depot had cycles available to use, and any slots free to return your bike. This is the functionality that cycle Hire Widget offers. You can easily find the nearest depot to you by using a map, or the equivalent list. The Cycle Hire application is a quite straightforward application, there is no journey planning for example. i.e. you cannot find the journey time from one depot to another by using an average cycle time for example. But never the less, if you use the Barclays Cycle Hire a lot then this app is a must have.